In 1825 Ryutei Tanehiko began a serial novel called "Nise Murasaki Inaka
Genji" (The Imitation Murasaki and the Rustic Genji), which follows the
story line of the original novel "The Tale of Genji" by Lady Murasaki Shikibu
(978 -1014). However, 'The Rustic Genji" is set in the 15th century, and
the love affairs of Prince Genji take place in the licensed quarters,
rather than at court as in the original novel.
The popularity of "The Rustic Genji" inspired many prints and series of prints. Many artists designed comparable prints associating courtesans with different chapters of "The Tale of Genji". This print by Kunisada Utagawa (1786-1864) is one such print. The Genji crest, and the two letters (Utsusemi) inside the cartouche, indicate that this print represents Chapter 3, "Utsusemi". Different Genji crests were assigned to each of the chapters. This print features a courtesan looking at a Go board. In Chapter 3 of "The Tale of Genji", Prince Genji watches Utsusemi play Go with her sister.
In Japanese, "utsusemi" means the cast-off skin of a cicada and is a metaphor for "transient life" or "ephemeral world". In the novel, Utsusemi is a court Lady who is the object of Prince Genji's romantic attention, even though she is married to the governor of Kii.
Fleecy clouds (Utsugumo) are commonly seen in prints and paintings illustrating the "Tale of Genji".
To view several versions of "Utsusemi" from the "Tale of Genji", click on any of the links below.
Utsusemi - Chapter Three (1)
Utsusemi - Chapter Three (2)
Utsusemi - Chapter Three (3)